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G.R. No. L-29025 – 41 SCRA 548 – Civil Law – Torts and Damages – Liability of teachers/heads of establishments of arts and trades
In March 1966, while Dominador Palisoc (16 years old) was watching Virgilio Daffon and Desiderio Cruz work on a machine in their laboratory class in the Manila Technical Institute (a school of arts and trades), Daffon scolded Palisoc for just standing around like a foreman. This caused Palisoc to slightly slap the face of Daffon and a fistfight ensued between the two. Daffon delivered blows that eventually killed Palisoc. The parents of Palisoc sued Daffon, the school president (Teodosio Valenton), the instructor (Santiago Quibulue), and the owner (Antonio Brillantes). The basis of the suit against Valenton, Quibulue, and Brillantes was Article 2180 of the Civil Code.
The lower court, as well as the Court of Appeals, ruled that only Daffon is liable for damages and that Valenton, Quibulue, and Brillantes are not liable because under Article 2180, they are only liable “so long as they [the students] remain in their custody.” And that this means, as per Mercado vs Court of Appeals, that teachers or heads of establishments are only liable for the tortious acts of their students if the students are living and boarding with the teacher or other officials of the school – which Daffon was not.
ISSUE: Whether or not the ruling in the Mercado Case still applies.
HELD: No. The SC abandoned the ruling in the Mercado Case as well as the ruling in the Exconde Case as they adopted Justice JBL Reyes’ dissenting opinion in the latter case. Valenton and Quibulue as president and teacher-in-charge of the school must be held jointly and severally liable for the quasi-delict of Daffon. The unfortunate death resulting from the fight between the students could have been avoided, had said defendants but complied with their duty of providing adequate supervision over the activities of the students in the school premises to protect their students from harm, whether at the hands of fellow students or other parties. At any rate, the law holds them liable unless they relieve themselves of such liability, in compliance with the last paragraph of Article 2180, Civil Code, by “(proving) that they observed all the diligence of a good father of a family to prevent damage.” In the light of the factual findings of the lower court’s decision, said defendants failed to prove such exemption from liability. The SC reiterated that there is nothing in the law which prescribes that a student must be living and boarding with his teacher or in the school before heads and teachers of the school may be held liable for the tortious acts of their students.